Promo cards have been a part of AEG history since the release of pre-Imperial cards for Legend of the Five Rings. Those cards were a print test of sorts, POD printed for Gen Con, using the art that had already arrived for what would eventually become the basic set for the world’s second-longest-running TCG.
Promo cards work, at least for games with an inherent customizable aspect like TCGs. They help motivate my kids to go to the local league store every week. And they are fun for us to make and to find fun new ways to distribute.
However, promo cards are ideally suited to the collector mentality of TCG players. Players like having alternate art, foil stamps, or what have you to bling up their decks because, in large part, the decks are expressions of themselves. Building one’s deck is easily half the game.
The same does not hold true for euro-style board games. Alternate art cards are not as cool as they are for TCG players, because your board game will end up with a duplicate card. Board gamers do not swap out cards like TCG players do, and one foil Shipment card in Mercante just would just seem out of place.
Cards with exclusive mechanics are likewise problematic, because board games—unlike deckbuilders, TCGs, etc.—use all their components at once. Thus the existance of a gameplay exclusive promo gives those who do not have those cards the impression that they do not have the entire game.
I bring this up because the original marketing plan for the Tempest games was that each game would have cards from each of the other games in the line. The thought was that this would raise awareness, and that it would encourage gamers to buy the other games in the line.
I was planning on following this idea until one day I sat down and thought it over carefully, point by point.
Raise Awareness: Would anyone really not know that there were other games in the Tempest line? Well, sure. Never underestimate the ability of people to be uninformed.
But all of our marketing has been and will be about the Tempest line. Each game box references the other games in the line. Each rulebook references another game in the line. The website shows all the games in the line.
So if someone was able to avoid learning that the Tempest games were part of a line, having promo cards in their game box would just confuse them further and lead to customer service getting very obtuse emails.
Net gain: minimal.
Encourage Purchases: While it would encourage completists to get the other games, it might also cause someone with not a lot of cash to choose to buy something else where they would feel they were getting a complete game.
Net gain: potentially moderate, or possibly negative.
So the purposes of cross-promotional card inclusion were looking pretty weak. What about the drawbacks?
First, it could easily lead to production errors since all three games were going to press simultaneously, and would have crossover components.
Second, it would seem that we were forcing consumers to buy three games. This is pretty much unavoidable, since it was one of the purposes listed above. Just sayin’.
Third, the best marketer could spin it as hard as they wanted, but it would still seem that we had three games and decided to blend the components up rather than release each one as a complete standalone.
Now, I don’t like spin. I like honesty and candor, and I have built my professional gaming reputation on these two pillars. Plus, these days, especially on the web, whenever someone doesn’t like what you’re saying, they automatically accuse you of spinning the facts. I could name names…
All that to say that the negatives were outweighing the positives.
I don’t want people to buy a Tempest game because they “have to.” I want people to buy Tempest games because they are excellent and fun. I want each customer to feel they got a great value and a complete game.
So, as of this time, there will be no promotional cards for Tempest. There may be in the future, if I can figure out a way to do them right, but I do not foresee any.
So leave a comment on the AEG forums and let me know: Did I make the right choice? What are your thoughts? Has someone done promo cards for board games in a way that you like?